What Lies Beneath
|Harrison Ford||Norman Spencer|
|Michelle Pfeiffer||Claire Spencer|
|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
There are a half-dozen major ?AAAAAGGHHHH!!!? moments in Robert Zemeckis?s entertaining pastiche of scary movie classics, and a few more legitimate gotchas in a minor key. They?re tied together with star power acting from Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford and an industriously twisty script by Clark Gregg. It?s summer, we want to be pleasantly scared, and this fills the bill.
Zemeckis subscribes to the shocker truism that the more we know something?s coming, the bigger the scream when it hits. Stick a woman alone in a big old house with noises and doors that open by themselves and thunderstorms that rage outside, and have her walk backwards a lot, and we?re in scream city.
Norman and Claire Spencer (Ford and Pfeiffer) live in just such a house. It would be desolate enough anyway, but Claire?s suffering empty nest syndrome with her daughter freshly off to college. She?s ?emotionally tender? from a few other factors, on which her best friend (Diana Scarwid) obligingly brings us up to speed: ?You?ve had a big year?the move?the house?the accident?.? The exposition.
So it?s no wonder she starts seeing ghosts. And that?s not all she sees. With binoculars glued to her face she spies on the neighbors, and begins to suspect foul play next door. But the play is plenty foul right at home, and ultimately the neighbor ruse recedes.
In the opening scene Claire appears to be trying to scare herself by holding her breath underwater in the bathtub. She needn?t have bothered; there?s plenty of scariness and underwater stuff coming up. Zemeckis seems to have been deeply impressed with the water imagery in Clouzot?s Diabolique and the voyeurism from Hitchcock?s Rear Window, and composer Alan Silvestri must?ve haunted Hitchcock movies too, and they don?t much care who knows it.
The movie takes considerable care tying up loose ends, but some stay loose. There?s a dog, for instance, and a good-sized one at that, but he must spend a lot of time at the pound, because he only turns up when Zemeckis needs him. Any normal dog would be under the covers with Pfeiffer when those thunderstorms hit. Perhaps there?s a clue in the name of an antique store, ?The Sleeping Dog?, but it went over my head.
Some of the spooky stuff is plain silly ? why would an obsessed spirit waste time playing computer games? surely we?re beyond that in the next life ? but some of it hits the mark. There are red herrings and McGuffins, but when a paralyzing drug is introduced in Act I, it carries with it the whiff of inevitability for Act III.
Zemeckis and DP Don Burgess keep the look as brightly murky as polished pewter, and the pace holds up well for a two-hours-plus scarathon. See it with someone with short fingernails.
© Text 2007 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be